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Active U.S. Marine Officer JD Kameen and his wife, Liza, found love and a successful company that’s empowering artists amid the challenging economic landscape of COVID-19.
While JD was stationed in Pensacola, Fla., for flight training, he and Liza started Paintru, a company that turns photos into hand-painted artwork from artists around the world.
“I was looking for a gift for Liza for our first anniversary, so I went to a local gallery and asked the gallery owner if he could find an artist who could hand paint a favorite photo of the two of us,” JD told Fox News. “The whole process was just really confusing from start to finish, so we ended up reaching out to an artist over Instagram who painted it and shipped it right to our house. We immediately realized that a lot of other people were going to want to do that, if we could simplify the process.”
The Paintru team is also composed of other military veterans who attended Naval Academy with JD. Liza said they were all able to apply their military skills to Paintru in a variety of ways.
“Our co-founders’ military background has been instrumental, especially when it came to logistics,” said Liza. “They've just been able to tackle a lot of our shipping and receiving and operations side of things, while I've been able to tackle a lot of the marketing and branding side of things, so it's been a really great partnership and complementary skill sets.”
JD explained that veterans are sometimes unable to articulate why and how their unique skills set them apart. He advised that his fellow veterans understand that the entrepreneurial journey fits hand-in-glove with the military process.
“When I was a young officer in Quantico, it wasn't out of the norm to get really intensely challenged by superior officers on ideas, and you have to go out to the field and prove why your idea works,” explained JD. “That's really the essence of being an entrepreneur, is that you're going to be scrutinized from day one and you have to show the market that your idea works and that it's a valuable customer proposition.”
Liza and JD told Fox News that their company has seen a massive uptick in traffic and inquiries both from customers and from artists during the coronavirus pandemic. Now that people are spending more time at home, they have a heightened sense of their space. Paintru can give customers the ability to make their houses a home by providing access to high-quality, custom artwork, the founders said.
The company has been bridging a gap for artists during the coronavirus crisis by providing them with a new stream of income and a way to live through very unpredictable times.
“We match with our artists through Instagram, and we noticed a surge in requests to become a Paintru artist where there were hotspots of COVID-19,” noted Liza. “We saw a surge in Chinese artists reaching out back in December of 2019...then it was a wave of Italian artists, and then lastly, New York artists, so it was kind of interesting to see the progression of where the requests to become a Paintru artist were coming from because I think artists were looking for a way to continue painting, showcasing their work and, having a steady income coming in during this time.”
JD added that when looking at the impact of COVID-19 on local economies, people often forget artists who can no longer participate in street fairs or sell their works in galleries. While the company currently has more artists than requests for art, JD and Liza are using Paintru’s Instagram page with nearly 500,000 followers to showcase artwork from artists around the world to give them an extra boost and promote them during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We were just honored to be that e-commerce presence where artists could make that shift,” said JD. ”We've been able to partner with artists to give them at least some type of opportunity during this challenging time.”
For more on Paintru and JD and Liza Kameen’s journey as its founders watch the full video above.
Emily DeCiccio is a reporter and video producer for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.